Costa Mesa is one of the many communities that make up California’s densely-populated Orange County. Although it is on the smaller side, it remains a highly desirable home for people throughout the region, and the population of more than 100,000 people is still slowly growing at this time.
The high mesa overlooking Newport Beach has always been some of Orange County’s finest land, and this was appreciated by the Native Americans who lived in the area before the coming of European settlers. There was a village on the Santa Ana River known as Lukup, populated by the Tongva and Acjachemen peoples, was there before the Spanish arrived.
The Spanish founded the mission at San Juan Capistrano in 1776, just a few miles southeast of Lukup. Spanish priests visited the tribes on occasion, and the fertile farm and ranch land in the area eventually passed into the hands of Jose Antonio Yorba. His massive ranch was slowly broken down into smaller farms over the course of generations.
19th And 20th-Century Reverses
By the time the Costa Mesa area passed into American hands along with the rest of California, the area which would become Costa Mesa was well known for its agricultural crops and its cattle. By the 1880s, there were enough people living in the area to justify the foundation of Fairview, a promising new town. Sadly a major storm washed away Fairview’s sole railroad connection and caused the community to wither.
This story nearly repeated itself around the turn of the century with the foundation of Harper, another small railhead town established to serve the modest needs of the local ranchers and farmers. Harper officially became Costa Mesa in 1920, and the arrival of oil drillers in the early 20th century promised big things for the young community. The twin disasters of depression and earthquake nearly finished the town off for good.
WWII And Beyond
By the time of the Second World War, Costa Mesa was a sleepy rural community of fewer than 15,000 people. The establishment of the Santa Ana Army Air Base proved to be the town’s salvation. Thousands of airmen and their families rotated through the busy camp over the course of the war, and many of them noticed the promise of the surrounding land.
Costa Mesa was formally reincorporated in 1953 when its population stood at just over 16,000. The next two generations would see the population swell more than five times over as Costa Mesa grew along with the rest of Orange County. Gone were the quiet agricultural days of the pre-war years; for better or worse Costa Mesa was transformed into a vibrant example of the Californian suburb.
Today Costa Mesa is a busy city that is both home to workers commuting to jobs elsewhere and a significant number of people who live and work right within Costa Mesa itself. Amply supplied with retail, light industrial, and financial companies, Costa Mesa has a fair number of different attractions to entice new residents into the community. It also has a long-term population of families that have lived in the region for generations, and its stability suggests that many of them will be there for generations more to come.